The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) is reporting that a new study indicates 84% of Buncombe County residents believe tourism is beneficial to the community. Commissioners heard a presentation from TDA representatives during their meeting on June 20. The TDA also presented the following information from its third-party survey of Buncombe County residents in February of this year:
- 52% of people agree tourism positively affects me and my family
- 88% believe visitors help support the number and variety of independent businesses
- 38% believe visitors detract from the culture and character of the community
- 48% believe tourism reduces availability of public green space
- 79% agree the visitor economy helps support natural and cultural amenities
Additionally, the TDA is reporting tourism helps sustain 27,000 jobs and generates $238 million in sales tax revenue for Buncombe County. For 2022, visitors spent $2.76 billion, and the TDA forecasts this year is on its way to see $2.9 billion in tourist spending. You can read the entire report here.
Pride Month proclamation
June is Pride Month and Buncombe County Commissioners are honoring it with an official proclamation. It reads in part: “Whereas, more than 35,000 of our neighbors in Western North Carolina identify as LGBTQIA+ and a recent survey at UNC-Asheville revealed that a third of the students don’t identify with conventional binary, heterosexual stereotypes. LGBTQIA+ individuals across the United States, including those who live in our local community, continue to face hate and discrimination simply for being who they are and for who they love and there remains much work to do to extend the promise of our country to every person.” You can read the entire proclamation here.
Elder Abuse Awareness Month proclamation
June is also Elder Abuse Awareness Month and Commissioners are drawing attention to the issue with a proclamation. It reads in part: “Buncombe County’s Adult Protective Services received 2,090 reports in fiscal year 2022 with 1,238 screened for evaluation. We know that elder abuse and mistreatment are underreported with an estimation of only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse being reported.” You can read the entire proclamation here.
Water outage report
Commissioners received an update about the December 2022 water outage from an independent review committee appointed by the City of Asheville. The committees finding have immediate, short- and long-term recommendations such as:
- Crew to support distribution system maintenance and repairs
- Staffing to enhance night coverage at water treatment plants
- Staff to improve critical communication and customer engagement
- Customer service staff to support meter project transition
The City is also in the process of updating its Emergency Operations Plan and Continuity of Operations Plan. You can read the full report here.
The Community Reparations Commission (CRC) provided an update on its progress. Previously, the CRC identified five Impact Focus Areas (IFAs):
- Criminal Justice
- Economic Development
- Health & Wellness
Currently the Commission is reviewing bids for further work on having a harm audit for the Counties policies and procedures and preparing for IFA workgroups to present recommendations. You can view the full presentation here. The CRC is a planning retreat on Saturday, July 29 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Harrah’s Cherokee Center. For previous CRC meeting notes, up-to-date news, live streams of meetings, and more about the Reparations Commission’s work, click here. To sign up for updates from the City of Asheville, click here.
Solid Waste ordinance amendments
To help prolong the life of the County’s landfill and maximize recycling and waste diversion initiatives, Commissioners approved amendments to the Solid Waste ordinance. The following amendments were made:
- A fee for incoming mixed-waste loads that contain substantial recycling materials. A double-base tip fee will be charged for loads containing 5% by weight or volume of the following recyclable materials: corrugated cardboard, untreated wood products suitable for mulching, concrete, cinder blocks, brick, concrete with steel or any type metals.
- A fee for uncovered and unsecured loads in order to help reduce road litter. If found in violation, cars, pick-up trucks, and trailers will be charged $10 per load and all commercial and other vehicles will be charged $25 per load.
An awareness campaign for these new fees will begin later this month and the fees will become effective starting in August. You can read more about the amendments here.
Approval of JCPC annual plan
Every year, the state requires the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) submit a certification and annual plan. The County has completed all necessary requirements and is in full compliance. The JCPC’s goals are:
- Provide alternatives to youth development centers (YDCs) through community-based programming, treatment, counseling, or rehabilitation services for youth involved in, or at risk of involvement, in the juvenile justice system.
- To provide noninstitutional dispositional alternatives that will protect the community and youth.
The JCPC supports its goals by running a variety of programs such as Teen Court, a diversion from juvenile court and Buncombe Structured Day, which provides academic and behavioral support for youth. You can learn more about the JCPC and its work here.
Budget amendment for West Asheville EMS base
Commissioners are moving forward with exploring the possibility of creating an EMS base in West Asheville with the approval of $650,000 for a feasibility study and a temporary base. The location will be at the old Asheville Primary School. The cost includes $150,000 for the feasibility study and $500,000 for the temporary EMS base. General Services requests to reallocate $650,000 from the existing FY23 EMS Base Construction project to fund this project, which would reduce the FY23 EMS Base Construction project budget from $7,250,000 to $6,600,000. No new County funding is required. You can read more about the project here.
Budget amendment for General Services complex
Commissioners approved a budget increase for the new fleet services building. The additional $1.7 million is on top of the existing $8 million originally approved for the project. The new costs are due to multiple factors including the rising costs of materials and the installation of solar panels.
The more than 21,000-square-foot facility will be located at 2945 Riverside Drive and will be home to the County’s fleet, General Services, and grounds departments with a 10-bay service garage, shared storage, and office space. This will be the first building constructed in compliance with the High-Performance Building Resolution adopting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. You can read more about the project here.
Budget amendment to comply with GASB
In order to comply with Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the County approved a budget amendment that requires no new money. At issue is how the County treats certain multi-year subscription-based information technology arrangements (SBITAs) as right-to-use subscription assets and corresponding subscription liabilities. This primarily applies to multi-year software contracts.
For budgetary purposes, and per the Local Government Commission, this means the County must recognize an expenditure and other financing source revenue for the present value of the payments we are contractually obligated to make over the life of the subscription and must reclassify to debt principal and interest the payments we made in the current year under these agreements. As a result, no new dollars as used to make this adjustment, but the budget must be increased to ensure each functional area can cover this required accounting treatment. The amendments are for the General Fund and Register of Deeds Automation Fund. You can read more here.